Maybe it’s because I threw together a wholly original class in such a short time — the trapper, in this case — or maybe it’s because I’ve made so many classes over the last six months, but I’m starting to really wonder why 4e character classes should have any advancement options at all. Let me back up a bit.

I’ve tinkered with 4e character classes for longer than simply the last six months, and before that, I tinkered with 3e classes. This isn’t anything new. What’s new is this thought I had about whether class advancement should just stop.

I know part of the reason I’m asking this question is due to collapsing encounter powers similarly to Essentials classes — rather than receiving new attack powers every few levels, character receive extra uses of the power they already have.

Additionally, daily powers have been dropped in favor of new class features that simply modify existing powers and abilities — the loss is felt only slightly in light of the comparative increase in power to the rest of the class. The class is now a kit.

That’s given me something to really think about — while utility powers are a ball to design and hand out, they don’t strictly add much to the existing framework unless dealing with stances, or my new “channeling”-type powers. You can only use or have one active at a time, which means more options proves useful — to a point.

What if choosing a class provided you with all your basic stuff as it does now — but the only thing it contributed to advancement was hit points per level? Rather than forcing out features and utility powers level by level, utility powers could be drawn from a pool provided by character race and theme.

This isn’t just laziness on my part either — I mean, utility powers can prove difficult to design at times — beyond 1st level utility powers don’t really seem to expand a class’s concept. They feel tacked on in a way that’s almost as bad as feats.

Which brings us to a related concept — the utility of feats. It seems to me as though the greatest single competition for feats actually comes from the existing class features that almost always succeed in trumping feats on a thematic basis.

Instead of tacking on additional class features beyond 1st level, maybe everything should be set so that feats can be taken to advance the class however the player sees fit? That provides a level of customization that players seem to crave.

I will have to think about this.